One day in the halls of posterity we will once more hear the soft voice of Ta Robert Sobukwe. I believe it’s quite momentous, albeit a long overdue that this nation, through the institution of the Nelson Mandela Foundation pays respect to this legendary man. Far be it from me to be critical of the vehicle of this recognition (as I am merely a cog in a large social wheel), however, I do believe that stirring our collective unconscious might be an avenue of considerable merit that should not be abandoned.
In the address given by his son Dini Sobukwe, he acknowledges the communities of Afrikan traditions and the of church that gave rise to this organic intellectual. What struck me is the concept of demystification of influence that he represents- the idea that ordinary people from ordinary and often marginalized places can make extraordinary contributions to philosophy, politics, theology and social change.
Even though Ta Sobukwe was a teacher- a revered profession at the time- he transcended the boundaries of the classroom and engraved an enduring message of affirmation and spiritual independence in the psyche of Afrikans. We take for granted the roles we desire by virtue of our professions when we fail to profess our own chosen vocations. The idea of being larger than life and of expansive existence is not of necessity limited to public personas and celebrated individuals. In fact, very often what we see is a perversion of life and a manipulation of what we should accept as life affirming and good. This notion is a process of conscious influence that demonstrates a break from the mental incarceration of servitude, to a greater awareness of “self” and “other” and concepts of growth thereof.
I applaud his non partisan approach to participation and civic engagement- a view that is as rare as it is unselfish. We have inherited a legacy of jostling for acknowledgement and of capitalistic competition at all levels of society- not only in the sense of economic and monetary fundamentals but also as at a level of social capital. I must concede that in order for democratic values to prevail, competition is key and vigorous partisan contest a major objective. However without a solid societal movement, clearly communicated values and the transparent and accountable translation of policies then such processes are gravely flawed and liable to exploitation.
All I am saying, is that We, as ordinary citizens of the continent, need to reclaim the magnificence of the Afrikan within a community of Afrikans. I hesitate to use the word “I” as I believe “I” as an institution has received sufficient homage and credibility and conversely “we” carries little weight as a dogma or instrument of and for real change. At the risk of sounding saccharine, we need to realize ways of giving vitality, vivacity and verve to the “we can” within the “I can” and vice versa.
The challenge then is to overcome the restrictions of the institutions within which we find ourselves and to confront the inequities, disparities and repressions that they tend to perpetuate. This week past in the South African public space was one of discourse around stereotypes that influence the paradigms within which we interact with each other- to be microscopic- within a larger canvass of social and political upheaval across the Afrikan continent. I don’t believe much in coincidence but more in the convergence of consciousness and of spiritual shifts. The danger then in not observing these historic moments appropriately and in not eking out our own analyses and internalization of these synchronicities is that we will lose an opportunity to explore our humanity at greater depth and to reposition ourselves in the process of opening our eyes with our consciousness.